What’s Cooking

I became a fan of British chef Nigel Slater back when BBC online was a free service and they featured several of his cookery shows. He was/is quirky and his shows where always slightly off the wall but his recipes are easy and appealing.

But more about Nigel later. I have decided that when I post a recipe I will not preface it with endless stories of my boyhood dreams stoked by the pages of Gourmet magazine or that first taste I had of foie gras at that cunning little bistro in the shadow of St Suplice etc. Instead here is one of the first of Nigel’s recipes that I tried and is a favourite that returns to our table every so often.

Hot Chicken Cake with lettuce and mayo – serves 4
From Nigel Slater’s Simple Suppers

500 grams/1 lb minced chicken
70 grams/2 1/4 oz soft bread crumbs
6 rashers of bacon, chopped*
1 lemon – zest and juice
6 sprigs of thyme, leaves only, chopped
3 heaping tbsp grated Parmesan cheese
2 tbsp olive oil
To Serve:
Oak Leaf or Bib lettuce leaves

Place chicken, breadcrumbs and bacon in a large mixing bowl. Grate the lemon zest in with the chicken mixture. Halve and juice the lemon adding the juice along with the thyme to the mixture. Add in the grated Parmesan and season the mixture with salt and a generous grinding of pepper. Mix thoroughly.

Shape the mixture into small patties or cakes.

Warm olive oil in a non-stick frying pan over medium high heat. Fry the patties in the oil, do not crowd the pan, for 4-5 minutes until they are golden and crisp on all sides. Lower the heat and leave to cook through for another 6-8 minutes. It should register 170-175f on a meat thermometer.

Remove the patties from the pan and place on large, crisp lettuce leaves, add a dollop of mayonnaise and wrap the patties in the leaves like a bundle.

*Putting the bacon in the freezer for 25-30 minutes makes chopping it much easier.

I’m sure that my faithful reader knew that though I didn’t preface the recipe with ramblings that it did no mean there would be no postface.

Slater is well-known in the UK for his many cookery books, his TV series and his regular column in The Observer/Guardian. He also has a following, though not as large, here in North American. His style of cooking, at the beginning of his career at least, has been uncomplicated, comfort food recipes. However I’m finding many of his recent recipes in the Guardian assume that you have a local farmers’ market and that your pantry is well stocked with artisanal goodies. But having said that only last week his recent recipe for a chicken stew/soup was a great hit at our dinner table.

As well as his cookery books he has written an autobiography, an anecdotal book about English cooking, and a two volume ode to his kitchen garden . In Toast, the Story of a Boy’s Hunger he traces his path from the family kitchen to the Savoy hotel with wit, some naked truths and, if his step-sisters are to be believed, a fair bit of hyperbole. The title comes from his mother’s inability to cook anything but toast. Apparently a culinary contest with his detested step-mother for the affections of his father led to his career as a chef.

I am just starting to read Eating for England: The Delights & Eccentricities of the British at Table (he does love long titles) which promises to be a quirky look at the much maligned English cooking. Yes that is the word for Nigel “quirky”.

The word for May 10th is:
Postface /ˈpōs(t)fās/: [noun]
A brief explanatory comment or note at the end of a book or other piece of writing.
It was difficult to find the etymology of the word but all the online dictionaries attest to it being a word. I must admit it was new to me. Any suggestions as to date and origin would be welcomed.

Valuable Recipes

Personally Tested and Vouched for by the Ladies whose names appear under the Recipes.

With that reassurance and trusting completely the good members of the Ladies Aid Society of Charlottetown’s First Methodist Church I purchased their Jubilee cookbook.

Harper’s New Monthly Magazine,September 1877 – twenty years before they published their fine cookery book.

It was one of the many items at the Christmas Craft Fair at the Sir Andrew MacPhail Homestead. Both Laurent and I have written about this lovely heritage site near Orwell and always enjoy both the drive out there and the grounds themselves. The Christmas Fair was a fine display of Island home businesses: stolen made by a charming German couple who have recently moved here; works by an 81 year old water-colourist who was born and lived near Orwell all his life; winter wear from a nearby alpaca farm; comforting blankets and throws from a local wool mill; and a gentleman selling Christmas pudding from a recipe his grandmother used during rationing in the first world war.

After a light lunch of homemade turkey soup and cheese scones we left with one of those plum puddings, a lovely watercolour, and a facsimile copy of the ladies’ recipes for all manner of delicious cakes, cookies, salads and sundries.

Almost as much fun as the recipes (I noticed that no temperatures are given as a good housewife knows if the oven of her wood stove should be fast or slow) are the advertisements.  Everything from dentistry, to undertaker, to that stove, and possibly the coal to fire it.  Some are amusing in their (to our eyes) naivety, others could well be written by today’s advertisers.  Though I think the one that takes the cake (not Mrs G. D. Wright’s Porcupine Cake!) is the final one from Bright New Bakery and Grocery at the corner of Great George and Euston.  Proprietor L. C. Wright tells the purchaser that:


Not exactly a roaring endorsement of the culinary artistry of the ladies of First Methodist but business is business.  I photographed (rather clumsily but I didn’t want to break the spine of the book) a few of the 72 pages – 50 of which are devoted to advertisements – and put them together as a slide show.  A left click on the cover will take you to the Flikr page and the slide show will start automatically.  Should you wish to stop it and go from page to page the controls are the bottom left (▮▮  ▶ ).


I’ve decided that I will try Mrs. W. Weeks Jr’s recipe for lobster croquettes as indeed it would make a fine luncheon or dinner entree.


I’ll let you know how it turned out.

On this day in 1886:  Friedrich Soennecken first developed the hole puncher, a type of office tool capable of punching small holes in paper.

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